ROTTERDAM — In a rematch of last year’s Section II girls’ tennis final, Loren Cuomo of Mohonasen beat Haejin Lee of Shaker 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Tuesday at Sportime Schenectady to win the sectional title for the second year in a row.
The win was not easy for Cuomo. She stumbled early, finding herself down a set and behind 4-1 in the second set before rallying to win the next five games and take the second set. After a long and exciting third set that featured a lengthy five-deuce battle for championship point, Cuomo was able to pull away with the victory.
“I’m pretty happy,” Cuomo said. “It was really nerve-wracking. Haejin was playing really well. We played last year, too, and it was stressful because I won last year and wanted to defend my title.”
Her coach, Maria Pacheco, was ecstatic for the freshman.
“We are to the moon and back,” Pacheco said. “We are so proud of her, especially being so young. There is so much talent there now and to develop as well, so we should see great things coming.”
Cuomo and Lee, a junior, are no strangers to competing against one another on the big stage. Cuomo beat Lee in last year’s sectional final and also in the consolation semifinals of the state tournament.
Lee looked to have the best of Cuomo early on Tuesday after taking the 4-1 lead in the second set.
“I was hitting it into the middle of the court a lot, and she was able to attack it and put it away,” Cuomo said. “But towards the end, I was trying to move around and get every ball.”
Ultimately, it was the freshman’s poise and stamina that propelled her to the victory. Cuomo also runs cross country at Mohonasen, which gave her the advantage in a match that lasted over two hours. For her nerves, she would stand away from the baseline and deliver self pep talks to keep her centered.
“I just try and think of tips that my coach always tells me and I try to remember to do them. I try and think of what I can improve and just keep myself calm,” Cuomo said of her mid-game conversations with herself.
Those wise words from Pacheco seemed to reach her young star.
“Just breathe. Take it easy. You have everything that you need to win. So just put it all together, you can do it,” Pacheco urged Cuomo.
Cuomo, Lee and the third-place winner Taylor Crain of Shaker will all represent Section II in the singles competition at the state tournament this weekend at Tri-City Tennis Club in Latham. Cuomo is looking to improve on last year’s performance, where she finished as runner-up in the consolation bracket.
“I’m hoping I can win my first match,” she said. “I think I’ve gotten better since last year. Otherwise I’d like to win the consolation rounds if I can.”
“We’ll try to keep it together. I think she has what she needs to at least advance in this championship,” Pacheco said.
Crain advanced to the state tournament with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Christine Lee of Niskayuna in the third-place match.
In doubles, Katrina Setchenkov and Aasiyah Virjee of Guilderland won 7-6 (2), 6-2 over Katia Kelly and Ellie Siebeneck of Saratoga Springs. Zoe Davis and Letti Donovan of Bethlehem also qualified for states with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Guilderland’s Meghana Bhupati and Lavanya Prabhakar in the third-place match.